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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

OCTOBER 8, 1999 VOL. 25 NO. 40

When Enemies Become Allies
In Jakarta, principles yield to political expedience

Indonesia: Walking on a Tightrope
Unrest against the military revives the debate over civil and military power in Indonesia. But a bigger question is: Will disillusionment and division jeopardize the presidential poll?
• When Enemies Become Allies
• A Battle Being Fought
• Back in the Thick of It

China: Right Down the Middle
On the economy, Jiang Zemin wants it fast and slow
• Party Time - for Some

Taiwan: Shocks and Aftershocks
The political effects of the eartquake will be more enduring

Malaysia's Electoral Pivot
Barisan and the opposition court the Chinese

Korea: A Borderline Decision
Behind North Korea's move to push its sea frontier south

Myanmar: In Exile and Powerless
Still, Myanmar's dissidents keep up the fight

The View from Australia
Outrage - and some second-guessing - over Australia's involvement in East Timor (10/01/99)

Keeping the Peace
A measure of calm returns to East Timor with the arrival of international troops. But the real challenge is not bringing peace but keeping it (10/01/99)

On the Firing Line
Habibie gives in to international pressure over foreign intervention - but his problems are far from over (09/24/99)

Step Forward, With Caution
Peacekeepers meet little resistance in Timor, but plenty of territory remains beyond their control

Breaking news from Southeast Asia

On Sept. 13, there was a quiet coup at Jakarta's city council. Twenty councilors from the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) voted against their own faction leader to help re-elect a two-star police general as the capital's local parliamentary chief. The move sparked protests at both the council and the PDI-P's South Jakarta headquarters; someone even let the air out of PDI-P Jakarta boss Roy Janis's tires. How could Indonesia's leading reform party back a military man over a civilian leader?

"I did the calculations," says Janis. Opposition icon Megawati Sukarnoputri's party held 30 seats in the 85-member council. The Islam-led "Axis Force" coalition could muster at least 32. If the Axis Force seized the capital's council chairmanship, he explains, it would have been a huge moral boost for the forces of political Islam. On the day of the vote, Janis's deputy went from one PDI-P councilor to another, telling them to vote for Maj.-Gen. Edy Waluyo, the leader of the military faction.

Why the military? The apparent aim was to get, in return, the armed forces' support for PDI-P candidates when Jakarta's five provincial representatives to the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) were being chosen. The move was sold as a necessary trade-off to secure Megawati's election as the next president (the MPR will select the president in November). But that didn't reassure loyalists. "This is two steps back," frets a party member privately. It was only three years ago that Megawati followers were killed during the military-led ouster of their leader from the PDI (leading her to form the PDI-P). Yet the decision to back Waluyo reportedly came from Megawati herself, though as usual she has kept silent in public. Janis notes: "Only the military shares our principles: [the state ideology] Pancasila, the 1945 Constitution and the unitary republic."

If that was the strategy, it did not work. When the Jakarta delegates were chosen on Sept. 26, the military sided not with the PDI-P but with Golkar. The move still raises questions: Is the PDI-P's apparent allergy to political Islam driving it into the embrace of its erstwhile enemies - the military, perhaps even the discredited Golkar? Most do not rule out an alliance of "reform" and "status quo" factions in the upcoming, bruising battle for the presidency. However disturbing the bedfellows made by Jakarta city politics, they could be just a foretaste of the MPR's infidelities.

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